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Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

In Pennsylvania, a parent’s rights can be terminated by the Court involuntarily for a number of reasons, either upon the petition of the other parent or action by Children and Youth Services or another agency. Generally speaking, a parent’s parental rights can be terminated if the parent abandons the child or fails to have contact with the child for a specified period of time; the parent has continually abused or neglected the child; the parent has a continued pattern of incapacity (such as drug or alcohol addiction); the child has been placed in the care of an agency for a certain period of time; the court has removed the child from the parent’s care for a certain period of time; the parent is a father whose child was conceived by rape or incest; or the parent committed certain offenses against the child or another child.

In choosing whether to terminate a parent’s parental rights, the Court’s primary consideration is the well-being of the child(ren) involved, including the child(ren)’s developmental, emotional, and physical needs. A parent’s rights won’t be terminated simply because they lack adequate income, housing, furnishings, clothing or medical care if the lack thereof is beyond the parent’s control (e.g. the parent lives in poverty and is unable to rectify these issues).

The parent whose rights would be terminated will be notified and have a chance to respond to the Petition to terminate their rights. Even if the parent’s whereabouts are unknown, in most cases, they will at least have the opportunity to learn of the Petition in a publication, as the other parent or agency will publish a notice regarding the Petition and the scheduled hearing date.

Often, in cases where a parent seeks to terminate the other parent’s rights, the Court will not terminate the other parent’s rights unless the child(ren) will be adopted by a stepparent. In cases initiated by an agency, or in cases involving rape or serious criminal charges, the Court may terminate the other parent’s rights without requiring that a stepparent or other individual simultaneously step up to adopt the child.

If you have questions about the involuntary termination of parental rights, contact Tanner Law Offices at (717) 731-8114 to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.